India-China Relations

By Hemant Kumar|Updated : May 3rd, 2020

India and China are among the oldest civilizations of the world and have had one of the longest uninterrupted continuations as nations in world history. In the 21st century, both countries are only examples of large demography, geography that has retained the sense of continuity with their ancient past. The religious, cultural, and trade links between these two countries are centuries old. In this article, we will have an overview of Indo-China Relations. This topic is very crucial in the sense of the fast-changing paradigm of International relations and the rising role of these two Eastern Nations. Due to this increased importance of the region, this topic becomes crucial for various exams like UPSC and State PCS.

India-China Relations: Evolution; Areas of Co-Operation; Issues; Mutual Interest; Way Forward

Evolution of India-China Relations

Modern relations between India and China primarily took place in the form of political ties. A significant development took place after both countries became independent. India became an independent nation in 1947 and China took birth as a communist state in 1949. India was among the first non- communist countries to recognized communist china and promoted china's representation in the United Nations. The early phase was famous as “Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai”. However, China’s forcible occupation of Tibet in 1950 led to protest from India, but China rejected the protest, and both countries came to an agreement concerning trade between India and the ‘Tibet Region of China’ in June 1954 called Panchsheel. The primary significance of Panchsheel was to provide an ideological foundation for developing the paradigm of international relations and maintaining the national identity, spirit, and character.

In 1962 there was a big blow to relations of both countries and especially to Nehru’s idealistic foreign policy when China attacked India in October 1962. The ties between both countries were almost frozen for about fourteen years. In the meantime, China became hostile towards India and started engagement with Pakistan. Pakistan became a proxy of China to keep India engaged in South Asia.

The relations between both the countries became normal after the path-breaking visit by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1988 as two sides agreed for the first time to set up a joint working group to defuse tension along the borders. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao's visit in 1993 to China led to a landmark agreement on the maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the LAC (Line of Actual Control) which provides for both sides to respect the status quo on the border.

The Bilateral relations between both countries revived to a new level of mutual understanding which expanded ties to full-scale cooperation when Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee visited China in 2003.

By 2003, both countries had decided to move ahead and build a friendship without allowing border question to hamper the India-China relations. Present relations are based on Cooperation, Competition, and Discord.

Areas of Cooperation:

Commercial and Economic Relations: Both countries are now global economic power. However, China's rise to the world’s second-largest country in terms of GDP after the USA has been marked by the continuous double-digit GDP growth for almost a decade.

  • Trade Relations saw rapid growth in the last few years. Bilateral trade relations between both countries touched US$ 89.6 Billion during 2017-18.
  • India is the 7th largest export destination for Chinese products and the 24th largest exporter to China.
  • India’s top exports to China included cotton yarn, diamonds, copper, iron ore, and organic chemical and India’s top imports from China include Electronic equipment, Organic Chemicals, Fertilizers, and Iron and steel.
  • The Indo-China Economic and Commercial Relations are shaped via various economic dialogue mechanism such as Strategic Economic Dialogues (SED) led by the Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog. Economic dialogue for cooperation on sustainable development, climate change, and food security.
  • Financial Dialogues led by Secretary Department of Economic Affairs of India and the Vice Minister, Ministry of Finance of PRC.
  • Several Indian Banks have representation in the form of their branches in China such as the State Of India(Shanghai), Canara Bank, Bank Of Baroda and Bank Of India. Similarly, many Chinese banks have a presence in India, such as the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China(ICBC). 
  • Few other institutionalized dialogue mechanisms between these two countries include the Joint Working Group (JWG) on Trade, Skill development, Information and Communication Technology, and high-end technology, Agriculture, and Energy.

Cultural Relations: The relations between India-China are many centuries old and dates back to the first, second, and third centuries-old when several Buddhist Scholar and Pilgrims visited India through historic ‘Silk Route’.

  • Among the best known Chinese scholars who visited India was Sung Yun, Hsuan-Tsang, Fa Xian and Xuan Zang
  • Many Indian Scholars visited China are Kumarajiva, Jinbhadra, Dharmakshema, and Bodhidharma have contributed to the spread of Buddhism in China
  • There is evidence of Linguistic Exchange between the Shang-Zhou civilization and the ancient Vedic civilization during 1500-1000 BC. 
  • Chinese popular martial art form, Kung-fu has its origin in Indian martial art.
  • A Buddhist temple in Luoyang, Henan Province, inside the White Horse Temple complex too was built by India as a mark of historical civilizational contact between India and China.
  • Indian Bollywood movies are very famous among Chinese nationals, and recently India-China entered into an agreement on the production of movies.
  • Yoga has also become popular among Chinese nationals.

Educational Relations: The relations between both countries are shaping through cooperation on the various educational program.

  • An umbrella agreement between both countries has been signed called Education Exchange Programme (EEP) in 2006 in which government scholarship has been provided by both countries.
  • A scholarship has been provided to Chinese students to study Hindi at the Kendriya Hindi Sansthan.
  • BRICS Think Tank Council and BRICS Network University have been created where universities belonging to each of the five countries will be engaging with each other in education, research, and innovation.
  • Indian Embassy in China is also directly engaging with Universities in China to establish direct contact with university authorities and to interact with the Indian students.

Issues between India and China: 

There are various bones of contention between the relations of both countries.

  • Border Dispute:
    •  India shares 3488 Km of the border with China that runs along with the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu & Kashmir. 
    • China refused to accept the Mcmahon line as a dividing line as China claimed to be not a signatory of the Shimla Convention in 1914.
    • One of the significant reasons for border dispute is not a proper delineation of the border by the Colonial rulers, which was a result of Tibet occupation in 1950.
    • China’s claim over Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh as a part of South Tibet.
    • In 1962 China claimed to capture the Aksai Chin region of the area around 43,000 square km south to the Karakoram.
    • China policy to provide Stapled Visa to the residents of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir (POK). 
  • Water Dispute:
    • China has been building an artificial lake in the northern reaches of the Brahmaputra called Tsangpo, which leads to water diversion. India is consistently demanding for joint monitoring of these lakes.
    • In 2016 an agreement was signed in which China agreed to provide Hydrological data for three months in rainy season for monitoring of floods.
  • The Dalai Lama and Tibet:
    • Tibetan people led to an uprising against Chinese occupation in 1959. They had to flee from Tibet and formed a Tibetan government in exile under the leadership of the Dalai Lama, which still functions without any real authority over people.
  • Trade Dispute:
    • Bilateral trade between both countries reached around $ 89.6 Billion, but the trade deficit has climbed to about $58 billion. 
    • One of the significant reasons for trade imbalance is due to trade baskets as Indian export include mainly raw materials, whereas India imports finished goods. China does not open those sectors where India has an advantage like IT and Pharmaceuticals. 
    • Trade restriction on high-end technology items on the basis of security.
    • Issue of non- tariff barrier and dumping of products.
  • Terrorism:
    • China supported Pakistan based terrorists and blocked India’s attempt at the UN on various occasions for the sanctions against Jash-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar.
  • Chinese Initiatives:
    • There is various Chinese initiative that is a significant concern for India.
    • Belt and Road Initiative- OBOR (One Belt and One Road) with its network of China-sponsored infrastructure projects in and around India’s neighborhood, amplifies India’s anxiety about China’s real intentions. India’s response towards OBOR is guided by a complex set of factors.
    • China-Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC)- The CPEC will pass through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) and Gilgit-Baltistan both Indian territories occupied by Pakistan. India considers building the CPEC as interference to India’s sovereignty. With CPEC and OBOR, India sees China’s growing profile in the region as an ‘encirclement’.
    • The string of pearls- It is China’s policy to encircle India by building ports and naval bases around India’s maritime reaches such as Hambantota (Sri Lanka), Gwadar(Pakistan), Marao Atoll (Maldives), Chittagong in Bangladesh.
  • The China-Pakistan Factor- The strong strategic, economic, and military tie primarily to counter India at the regional level. China has been a regular source of military equipment to Pakistan, providing technical assistance and modernizing existing facilities. The recent attempt of CPEC should also be perceived as more strategic less economical. 
  • Bhutan and Nepal- India has a long tradition of culture and trade exchange with both countries, but China is always critical of India’s role in and its role with Bhutan and Nepal. India also has a security arrangement with Bhutan for protection of its borders.
  • Quadrilateral Dialogue- India’s decision to join the Quadrilateral security dialogue, a strategic dialogue between Australia, India, Japan, and USA which has been opposed by China on the point of potential anti-Chinese alliance.
  • South China Sea- South-China sea is a strategic area in the pacific ocean. India has a substantial economic interest in this region as India intends to work with a country like Vietnam for oil and gas exploration, but the biggest hurdle is China. Chinese are not allowing any state to intervene in this area. 
  • United Nations Security Council (UNSC)- China is one of the significant obstacles for India’s bid for the permanent security council seat. 
  • Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)- China has been blocking India’s attempt of entry to NSG to build a case for Pakistan.

Mutual Interests of India-China:

  • India and China are supporting multi-polar world order diminishing US hegemony as one polar world.
  • India and China are members of BRICS, a regional grouping to support developing countries by forming the New Development Bank (NDB).
  • Both countries have a similar stand on trade disputes and WTO negotiations.
  • India’s induction into Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a Eurasian regional group of political, economic and security alliance.
  • India is also a member of China-backed AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) that provides loans for building infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region.

Way forward:

  • India's foreign policy needs to be more focused on China-Pakistan as one entity considering their mutual alliances.
  • India needs to build up its economy and security capabilities in order to contain China and to close the power gap with China.
  • India needs to diversify its import basket since the trade deficit has huge implications and join hands with the EU, Japan, US as an alternative to Chinese economic exploitation.
  • India must protect its sovereignty in the Indian Ocean region as China is active in IOR and participating in various exercises. 
  • India needs to work with Japan to bring Asia Pacific Growth Corridor at the focal point.
  • More informal summits like the Wuhan summit in 2018 and recently Mamallapuram in October 2019 should take place to ease the tensions between both the countries.

For More Such notes on Important Topics Click Here

More from Us:

Previous Year Solved Papers

Monthly Current Affairs

UPSC Study Material

Daily Practice Quizzes, Attempt Here


write a comment

Follow us for latest updates